Station IX: On the Other Side

"Under the Baobab Tree:  African Stations of the Cross"
“Under the Baobab Tree: African Stations of the Cross”

Scripture Passage: Luke 10: 30-33

30Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell into the hands of robbers, who stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead. 31Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. 32So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33But a Samaritan while traveling came near him; and when he saw him, he was moved with pity.

For us, we have the sense that this procession to the Cross was some sort of grand parade but, truthfully, this was something that happened regularly.  It really was just another crucifixion in the big scheme of society.  And most would have assumed that this poor criminal, already tried, convicted, and sentenced, already rejected by society, was just being dragged to a death that he must deserve.  And, besides, this was the eve of the Passover.  There was so much to be done–errands, food to be prepared, houses to clean.  So think of all the passersby, scurrying through their lives, many complaining about the traffic and the clogged roads that the procession was causing.  So, many would have just passed by on the other side, not wanting to touch or be touched by hopelessness and despair and death or maybe just not wanting or having the time to get involved.  And, then, again, Jesus falls.

Tradition tells us that Jesus collapsed for a third time not far from where he would be crucified.  A Roman column indicates the location of his third and final fall.  It has become part of a wall of a Coptic church.  During the Crusader period, there was a large monastery here, the remains of which are still visible today.  Standing there, you can see the roof of St. Helena’s Chapel, a part of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, where a community of Abyssinian monks live today.  This is the place where Jesus would fall for the last time.  This is the end of the road, so to speak.  The next station will be on the other side, preparing him for crucifixion.  This is the last place where those along the way could show mercy, the last place where they could help, where they could stoop down and gently help him to his feet.  But most would pass by on the other side.

This is uncomfortable for us.  After all, where would we have been in the procession?  I hate to admit it, but I’m not the most patient person in the world. I’m afraid that I would have been avoiding the traffic,trying to get everything done, trying to get everything in place by sunset.  We are so accustomed to living a life of faith needing Jesus.  We know we need Jesus.  We know that we are not complete without God.  We do not always live that way, often trying to fix things and change things and make it look like we don’t need anyone.  But we know we do.  We need Jesus.  But, here, here is the place where Jesus needs us.  How can that be?  How can the Savior of the World need me?  These three falls that are depicted in the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, uncomfortably show Jesus as vulnerable, as betrayed, and as needing us.  So where are you standing?

Jesus still needs us.  We are called to be there to feed the starving, to house the homeless, to clothe the poor.  We are called to be there to comfort the afflicted, to hold the grieving, to love the unloved.  We are called to be there to welcome the sinner and forgive the unforgiven.  We are called to open our church doors to all the children of God.  We are called to be Christ, to be Compassion, to be Love each and every time one of us falls.  So in this Lenten season, let us not relegate our faith to the other side of the road.  Let us walk the way that Jesus walked.

Grace and Peace,


The Season of Unpreparation

Scripture Passage: Mark 6: 7-12
7He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.8He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts;9but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.10He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.11If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.”12So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.

What do you mean we’re not supposed to take anything with us?  This journey is hard.  There might be danger along the way.  We have to be prepared.  Admit it.  That’s what we all think.  After all, this journey to the cross is hard.  We’re not even halfway there–just sixteen days or so–and we’ve already encountered more than we really thought we could handle.  And now we’re told to go out there virtually unprepared for what will come next.

Maybe that’s our problem.  Maybe we mistake this Lenten journey as a time of preparing us for the Cross when, actually, we’re being called to unprepare ourselves, to put it all aside and encounter the raw roughness of the road itself.  This season is not a season of preparation but, rather, a season to shake the dust off, to clear our minds of any baggage that we have brought to this place, and to leave empty-handed, open, ready to receive.

It’s not something that we do well, this letting go, this allowing ourself to appear vulnerable, out of control, and unprepared.  I mean, we know that we have to walk this walk.  We know what’s coming.  We know what we have to go through.  And so we don some sort of cross-cut suit of armor to protect us, to make it just a little bit easier.  But think what Jesus did at the beginning of this journey.  He went into the desert, unprepared, taking nothing.  He did encounter danger–the danger of his own needs, his own desires, his own vision of what his life could hold.  What he encountered was himself.  And then he shook off the dust and left, returning to the road itself.  St. Catherine of Sienna once said that “all the way to God is God.”

This road to the Cross IS the road to which we are called.  It is the Way of God.  The challenge for us in this season is not to prepare ourselves for what is to come, but to clear the way. 

Grace and Peace,



The Way of the Cross
Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1603)
Koninklijk Museum Voor Schone Kunsten (Belgium)

Scripture Passage:  Matthew 11: 28-30
28“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

In this Season of Lent, we are called to deepen our own walk with Christ.  This means moving beyond what Christ does for us.  Oh, don’t get me wrong.  Christ does everything for us.  But our relationship with Christ does not stop at that.  God is more than some sort of divine vending machine.  We are called to do more than worship the God who gives us everything; we are called to enter the Way of Christ itself, the Way of the Cross.  It means experiencing all of Christ–the birth, the ministry, the life, the Passion, the crucifixion, the death, the Resurrection–on the deepest and most profound level.  It means moving from being an observer to being a participant with Christ.  It also means entering our own humanity at the deepest level. It means becoming real.  Sadhu Sundar Singh says  that “if we do not bear the cross of the Master, we will have to bear the cross of the world, with all of its earthly goods.  Which cross have you taken up?  Pause and consider.

Over the last few years, I have become more and more drawn into the Stations of the Cross, that 4th century devotional tool that helped pilgrims flocking to the Holy Land from all parts of the world to walk in the Way of Christ.  It has become more than a way of prayer.  It is real, full of the depth and breadth of human experience and emotion, full of the power to move one beyond oneself, full of Christ.  These Stations, also called the “Way of the Cross”, the “Way of Sorrows”, the “Sorrowful Way”, and the “Via Dolorosa”, are a pilgrimage not just to the historical places of Jesus (because, truth be known, the places marked as stations in the streets of Jerusalem are really just good guesses) but to the Way to which we are called.

In this walk of faith, we are clear that we are called to worship and revere God, our Creator, the very Spirit that runs beneath us and at the same time courses through our veins.  This is the God who is there just ahead of us, calling us forward, calling us home.  This is our very source of gravity, that straight and perfect plumb-line that connects us to the Holy and the Sacred.  And yet, in science, relative strength is measured not just with the vertical pull of gravitational force, but with the horizontal relationship to that force itself. And true horizontality, the strongest point, occurs at the intersection with the vertical.  This Way that we walk with Christ, this horizontal side-by-side with Jesus gives meaning to our worship and reverence and draws it strength at that point.

So in the midst of our Lenten journey, remember that it is more than becoming a better person, more than developing a deeper relationship with God.  It is about worshipping and walking, walking and worshipping.  It is about entering the way of Christ.  So in the midst of these writings, let us walk this Way of the Cross.

Grace and Peace,